Youth Peace Travel Team 2016 – Orientations!

YPTT 2016 and their mentors. From L to right, back row: Audrey Hollenberg-Duffey, Sarah Neher, Chelsea Goss, Dana Cassell. Front row, L to R: Phoebe Hart, Sara White, Kiana Simonson, and Jenna Walmer.

Hello friends! The 2016 Youth Peace Travel Team is so excited to start sharing our experience with y’all this summer! We just finished up our Ministry Summer Service (MSS) training and are enjoying the first week of camp. We want to introduce ourselves a little bit and get y’all acquainted to the blog again for the summer. Each week there will be an introduction about where we are and each team member will share a little bit about their favorite experience that week.

Hello everyone! At MSS, I really enjoyed reconnecting with old friends and creating new friendships. I appreciated the time shared laughing in community, but also the spiritual discussions we had through lectio divina, examen, and other lessons throughout the week. My favorite moment during training was when we pulled into the hotel parking lot and “Don’t Stop Believing’ by Journey came on the radio and we all sang it at the top of our lungs.
Can’t wait to share more exciting experiences throughout the summer!

Peace, Love, and Pineapples, Jenna

Greetings friends! We have finished up training and arrived at our first camp. Training was full of connection, community, learning, and love. I am always awestruck by the number of gifts the young adults of the church bring when we gather. I feel beyond blessed to be supported by such grace and sophistication. The Youth Peace Travel Team (YPTT) was able to spend time with representatives from On Earth Peace, Outdoor ministries, Church of the Brethren, and Bethany Theological Seminary. Learning more in-depth information about the organizations and spending time with the faces of each extension of the church was an enriching experience. Exploring our call to peace and service with those of us a little older and wiser was an experience that I will be able to carry with me in my pocket as the team moves forward. The team then joined with fellow MSS interns to build a community of those serving and exploring vocation this summer. The week was filled with laughter and building friendships that we will also carry with us as we travel around the country this summer.

I am thankful for all of the learning we have done so far. But above all, I am thankful for the love that surrounds us as the YPTT, as members of the church, as friends, and as children of God. We are blessed. We are members of one family.

Blessings, Kiana

Greetings all! Over the past two weeks of training I have been blessed to get to know and share many growth experiences with my fellow YPTT members and Ministry Summer Service interns. Particular special for me was the opportunity for us all to plan and lead the Wednesday morning chapel service for those in the Elgin offices. We chose the theme of hope, reading from Romans 8: 22-28. As I head out this summer, I am hopeful for the opportunity to connect with Brethren from around the country, united by our common call to follow the life of Jesus. In visiting the offices in Elgin as well as Bethany Theological Seminary, I found a special sense of connectedness and support as we all head out on this journey together. I hope that we can share this spirit of community, and through it Christ’s spirit of peace, with all of the campers we encounter this summer.

In peace, Sara

Hey, y’all! I am so excited to be at our first camp. Training has been so great, both at YPTT orientation and MSS orientation. At Bethany Theological Seminary, I really enjoyed learning from professors and eating dinner with church leaders and friends of the Youth Peace Travel Team. We had three really great leaders for the week – Bekah, Marie, and Nate. They all had a lot of good advice and wisdom to share.
When that was over, we went to Ministry Summer Service orientation in Elgin, at the main offices of the Church of the Brethren. My favorite part of training was, again, getting to eat dinner with different people around the area. One night we met some amazing local leaders in the church and got to have a sort of “panel” with them. Though the invite wasn’t exclusively given to women, the leaders in attendance were all amazingly inspiring female pastors and leaders in the church, and hearing about their journeys was a wonderful experience. I also really loved talking with my mentor throughout training, because I got to learn a little about her time on YPTT and we got to discuss what it might be like this summer. I’m pumped to see what the rest of the summer holds!

Phoebe

2 visits to Chibok – 50 years apart

Chibok has always been a difficult place to get to. Here are stories of two journeys to Chibok 50 years apart.

Ralph Royer (2003 visit to Nigeria)

Ralph Royer (2003 visit to Nigeria)

 Story #1 Chibok Visit – A trip to Remember

(recalled by Ralph Royer – long time missionary in Nigeria, Supervisor of the 40 Church of the Brethren Elementary Schools during the 1960’s)

In the early 1960s the government of northern Nigeria announced a desire to transfer primary schools, both mission and native schools, to what were called Local Education Authorities (LEA). There being only a few non native schools in Borno LEA made it a good place to start. I made several trips to Maiduguri to help work out some of the details to transfer our three schools in Borno LEA – Chibok, Kaurwatikari and Mbalala. It was decided to do the transfer in 1963 and I felt the schools and teachers needed to know this as ownership and employment etc was to transfer to the LEA.

Current road to Chibok

Current road to Chibok

Usually Chibok was cut off by road from July to October, but this was August so I decided to take a small 50cc motorcycle from Lassa for the thirty miles to Chibok. At the Musa stream I had to get men to help hoist it over our heads to cross the stream. One of the shorter men stepped in a hole and briefly disappeared below the surface. When I was within seven miles of Chibok, I came to a large flowing stream at a spot I knew to be only a low area with an occasional mud puddle. Now it flowed two hundred feet across. I had already had help several times crossing streams, so seeing no around, I parked my moped by a tree and started walking in water up to my chest. A few miles on I met some Fulani cattle herders and their dog, but we could not converse and we each went on. After separating some distance, I heard a funny sound and turned around to see their dog really bearing down on me. I reached at it and the dog veered off, but it raised the hair on my neck and added to the seriousness of the whole situation with water everywhere. As I approached the last stream just behind the mission station, I began to wonder where the station was. There was nothing but water as far as I could see. A slight movement ahead caught my eye, it was a woman climbing into the branches of a tree. I watched as she went through to the other side and down holding onto small trees as she went forward. I followed and later found that this tree grew in the middle of the stream and we had crossed the stream where it was ten feet deep and three feet beyond each bank.

It was a very surprised Grace Brumbaugh who met me when I arrived at her house! They had four and a half inches of rain that afternoon and many mud houses had collapsed. It was also an appreciative group of teachers to whom I explained the upcoming changes in the running of the schools.

Over the next several years we arranged for the transfer of all of our forty-two schools. Informing these teachers required less “heroism”!

School from which the "Chibok girls" were abducted

School from which the “Chibok girls” were abducted

Story # 2 My Wilderness Journey To Land Of Chibok (An excerpt)

By Naija247news Posted In Crime & Investigative Reports

(A journalist tells of his trip to Chibok some time after Boko Haram had captured 276 girls)

 

 

The road to Chibok is bad and full of uncertainty; checking points everywhere mounted by vigilante group. Bombed cars, trucks and buses abound on the road to Chibok. Burnt houses and hot. Several villages sacked by the insurgents whose inhabitants now live under trees with their children begging for aid from travelers. Abandoned Police Posts that had received the insurgents’ baptism of fire! The Damboa-Chibok Road is particularly very bad. The major road has been taking over by flood. Drivers now drive through the desert forest like antelopes sneaking to avoid wet bushes from touching them. Some have been killed on the road by the insurgents and many escaped with varying degrees of gunshots injuries. Pastor Manasseh for instance, showed me injuries he escaped with on this road. At some checking points mounted by policemen and soldiers passengers are asked to step out of the car and walk through the check point.

We continue to remember those abducted by the Boko Haram and pray for their safe return.

Destroyed Chibok school

Destroyed Chibok school

 

Responses to Care for the Displaced around Yola

By Peggy Gish (Volunteer in Nigeria)

Vinikiling campI had been taken to pieces of land being developed into a settlement of small houses for the Nigerian people displaced by the violence of Boko Haram, and a camp of newly constructed buildings where families will start moving into in three weeks. Both sites were nestled in among trees and brush, on the edge of Abuja. I had heard about displaced families crowding into homes of relatives or fellow church members. Today, however, we were visiting five IDP camps around the city of Yola, considered a safe area, three hours south by car from the villages and towns from which these people had fled.

At one site, in a fenced in area of buildings right in the city, owned by a private resident, 200 mostly women and children, milled around a large yard. In another, managed by a government agency, which felt more discouraging to me, about 4,000 people were packed into large halls in barracks at a former military site, some for women and some for men. Many of the people sat and lay around listless in the shade or inside buildings, in the 115 degree (F) heat, while flies buzzed around. Residents on cooking duty, stirred large pots of mush and stew for their communal meal. At a third camp, workers were in the midst of a boisterous game with the children.

This was in contrast to a small camp in a rural area outside the city where families had constructed their own small, traditional dwellings out of reeds and grasses. Men sat around under shady trees. Children played around or gathered around a water pump helping pump water for other residents. Here, life was very basic and hard, but allowed more privacy and normalcy of daily life.

Our last stop was at an EYN (Nigerian Brethren) Church on the edge of Yola, organized and developed by EYN, but for people from various church backgrounds. Over a thousand people live on the grounds in tents. Leaders described their organized children’s activities, nutrition and economic training programs for women, and medicine dispensary, assisted by the International Rescue Committee (IRC). As in other camps, they received some of their food and supplies from Nigerian and international agencies. Playful children crowded around us eager for any attention we might give them. kids in campIMG_5165

There were stark contrasts to conditions and settings, yet all were forms of the wider community responding to the needs of tens of thousands of people who had suddenly fled their homes in fear during the past year. People have been torn away from their homes, school, and work, but are being cared for, until they are able to face the challenges of returning and rebuilding their lives and communities.

The Story of Lami

by Rhoda Maina (A member of the Nigeria Disaster Team)

I met Lami during the relief distribution exercise at Uba last week. She received food and clothing as part of the EYN (Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria) effort.

Her Story

Lami is a 27 year old widow that lost her husband to Boko haram in February 2015. She is from my village (Lassa). As a matter of fact, they stayed in the same neighborhood with my parents before the dreaded attack. Lami and her late husband (Ujulu) and their three children were able to run to a nearby community for safety. However people in that community were also at risk because of the presence of Boko Haram in the area. After a few days, Ujulu’s elder brother, (Bitrus) who lives in Maiduguri sent a message to Ujulu that he should contact him. Bitrus had made arrangements for the family to leave that community and travel to Maiduguri.

On that fateful day, narrated Lami, ‘’My husband took a motor cycle and told me to make sure I stayed safe. He was going to look for a place where he could access the phone network to call his brother. It was after two days without his return that I knew what I greatly feared had happened.”

Ujulu met Boko Haram members on his way to the community called Sabongari. There they tied his hands behind his back and slit his throat, at least that was what Lami said with a very emotional voice.

 Ujulu burial:

Lami continued, ‘’Before I got the information, his friends in that community had already identified his body but could only dig a shallow grave. We went back for a proper burial and while they were burying him I hid myself in a bushy area to act as their lookout in case any Boko Haram were passing.’’

 How is Lami coping?

“All hope was lost after the death of my husband. My children became sick and always asked when their father was coming home. I would look at them with tearful eyes and tell them that they would see him one day.  However, in March, I attended a trauma healing workshop organized by an EYN pastor here in Uba.  There I received encouragement and strength from the teaching. Many other women shared stories sadder than mine. Since then, I have picked up the courage to be strong and take care of my kids and see what God will do.’’

Three easy ways to get your church online

Before pursuing any of these options, you need a church e-mail address. You can get one for free at  GoogleYahooOutlook or other sites. At least three people should have the user name and password for the e-mail, and it should be checked regularly. Be sure to send the e-mail address to the main Church of the Brethren office.

Set up a website

Oakton Church of the Brethren website

Oakton Church of the Brethren website

There are a number of free options, such as https://wordpress.com/ or http://www.weebly.com/ or http://www.wix.com/ It simply takes someone with a few computer skills (not a trained technical person) to create a site with these services.

If you use these sites, your URL (web address) would have the site name in it, such as churchname.wordpress.com. If you want to have your own URL without the site name (something like churchname.org), you need to get a “domain name.” The cost varies, but averages around $15/year, with discounts for purchasing multiple years. The registration must be renewed at the end of the time or you lose it. You do not have to buy a domain name to have a website—but your own web address might be simpler for people to remember. The web site would be the same in either case; only the address would be different.

Create a Facebook page

Facebook automatically generates a page for any business or organization it finds. Find yours by searching within Facebook. Someone can go in and edit this profile, adding photos, service information and so forth. You can use this as your web page if you like. However, you do not have complete control since the page is “owned” by Facebook.

A better bet is to create your own church Facebook page. Go to https://www.facebook.com/pages/create and follow instructions from there. Before doing this, decide on a page name since you can only change it once.

Once you have a church Facebook page, you can click the “duplicate page” on Facebook’s automated listing so that the new one will replace their auto-generated one.

You may want to have both a public page for people to find you and a private group (for group members only) to share prayer requests within the congregation. That is up to you!

Here are some tips for using Facebook: http://network.crcna.org/church-web/6-simple-ways-your-church-can-use-facebook-better

Claim your Google listing
Another free way to have a better web presence is to claim your Google listing. Google makes a listing for all businesses it finds. Search for your church, then click “Manage this page.” You can upload photos, service times and so forth. This shows right away for anyone searching via Google. You will have to sign in to Google to manage it. (Use a church or generic e-mail address, not someone’s personal e-mail address for this).

It’s a great idea for all churches to do this so that your service times and other crucial facts show. However, it’s better not to do it if your schedule varies and no one will remember to update the Google listing!

Three essential points

  1. Consider what are the best things about your church, then put them on the home page or feature them in photos on Google or Facebook. We often say our people are the best thing, then we display pictures of an empty building. Why not offer photos of community service activities, popular church events, or some of that great food we’re known for? It may still be a good idea to include photos of the church building alongside the directions or address so that people know what to look for when they visit.
    Photo note: Be sure to ask permission before using photos of people – and don’t list names or identifying details when displaying photos of children.
  2. Make sure at least 3 people have access to the site and can make updates. Create the site using a church or generic e-mail address rather than someone’s personal e-mail (what if they move?)
  3. Don’t offer features you will not be able to keep up. For instance, it’s better not to have a “News” page than to have “news” that is several years old. Remember that it’s easy to start things, but hard to maintain them.

Be sure to send your updated contact information to the main Church of the Brethren office. The Find a Church page sees heavy use!

How has your church used technology? Do you have tips to share with others?  

Too Much Armor, Too Little Brain: The Risks of Political Advocacy & the Hope Our God Offers

Working for peace in Washington often feels like a losing battle, but perhaps the problem is that we often view the work of peace through a combative lens. Whether the issue is gun violence, drones, or any other issue of militarism, we often talk of “fighting back” against these issues and eventually building up enough support to “defeat our opposition”. But what if this paradigm is limiting our imagination and holding us back from working for and embodying Christ’s transformative kingdom?

I reflected on this tension after attending a conference held at the United States Institute of Peace that covered the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. There were speakers from Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist backgrounds, and their testimonies and stories of the religious community’s advocacy were very compelling and in stark contrast to the message of perhaps the most anticipated speaker at the event, Anita Friedt, who works for the State Department on US Nuclear Policy.

Mrs. Friedt’s speech was a fairly typical DC speech that was short on concrete ideas or promises and chock full of vague legalese that boiled down to an appreciation of the work the religious community does to make the world safe from nuclear weapons, while simultaneously patting us on the head to let us know that the political reality was much more complicated. She even tried to reassure us that the United States would never consider using these weapons except in the most extreme circumstances, but neglected to enlighten us as to what those circumstances might look like.

My friend and colleague, Rev. Michael Neuroth summed up many of our reactions to Mrs. Friedt’s remarks by ending his subsequent presentation with a quote from longtime peace activist Rev. William Sloane Coffin who once said, “We are beginning to resemble extinct dinosaurs who suffered from too much armor and too little brain”.

We all approvingly applauded the succinct remark, but if we are not careful, the Church’s political advocacy and activism can become confined by this same armor employed by Mrs. Friedt. When the real life problems of our communities and world become “issues” we talk about abstractly, we can speak and act on them divorced from their context and the people actually affected. To do this betrays not only the people affected but also our vocation as the Church.

When we engage in this manner, we’ve allowed our own armor to shroud and influence our vision to the point that we cannot even begin to imagine a world that is wildly different and more restorative than the reality we currently inhabit. Scholar and theologian Walter Brueggemann speaks about this tension at length in his book the Prophetic Imagination. In our line of work, we often like to talk about hope and peace in our world, but Brueggemann rightly reminds us that these words mean nothing out of their context:

“Hope expressed only in the present tense will no doubt be co-opted by the managers of this age…Therefore the symbols of hope cannot be general and universal but must be those that have been known concretely in this particular history…The memory of this community begins in God’s promissory address to the darkness of chaos, to barren Sarah, and to oppressed Egyptian slaves. The speech of God is first about an alternative future. (The Prophetic Imagination, pg. 64)

We are not a people without a history and we are not a people without a God. We know and believe that the status quo is not the best we can hope for because we have this unique story of God’s freedom and liberation working in the world. The same spirit in the “Cloud by Day/Fire by Night” that guided the Israelites out of the wilderness continues to pull us forward today into new possibilities of liberation and reconciliation.

Francisco de Goya's "Fire By Night"

Francisco de Goya’s “Fire By Night”

To speak of such things in our society makes us sound strange and unfamiliar, but speaking about them also gives us a clinging hope that feels unwarranted and yet incredibly necessary

Especially necessary when we’re confronted with inexplicable madness like the kidnapping of the Nigerian girls in Chibok. To respond with disembodied calls for peace and hope in Nigeria from a cozy office in Washington feels inadequate at best and totally disingenuous at worst. But when we ground our work in communion and solidarity with our Nigerian sisters and brothers, we can once again plug back into our story and remind ourselves of who we are and whose we are.

Only when grounded in this context can we faithfully speak an energizing word of hope, advocate for a just policy, or pray a prayer for peace. Only when we tap into the imagination and creativity of the Spirit can we begin to embody the reality of God that is here waiting to be shared and lived into.

This is our hope as an office. To witness to the story we’ve been given and grafted into by Christ. To recognize the areas of our country and world where this witness and promise of God’s alternative reality can make a difference, and pray that our work is not in vain.

May we learn to strip off the armor that limits our hope and shrouds our vision. And may we remember that we are clothed in Christ, the one who renews our mind and spirit to be courageous disciples who have no need of any armor but the Spirit of the Lord that goes with us.

Amen.

-Bryan Hanger

‘I knew that we would all be kindred spirits’

–Blogging from the Church of the Brethren Clergy Women’s Retreat

“I knew that we would all be kindred spirits,” said our worship leader tonight. She gave a presentation on a recent trip to the island of Iona, and said she had been looking forward to this Clergy Women’s Retreat while there and had prayed for the women who would come to this retreat. She brought small stones from Iona to give to each participant.

I looked around the room and thought, are we in fact all kindred spirits?

One might assume that a gathering of Brethren clergy women would, for the most part, be homogenous. But a statistician could find a lot of differentiation among us. This group could easily be “sliced and diced” in a number of ways.

We could be grouped by European or African or Native American or Asian ancestry–which may not all be apparent from our skin tones or accents or names.

If grouped by age or generation, differences would quickly become apparent, variations of culture and lifestyle assumptions would emerge in the baby boomers as opposed to the Gen Xers, for example.

There are women here with decades of experience in pastoral or other forms of ministry. And there are the newly licensed, and some who have been in ministry for only a couple of years or less.

There are extroverts and introverts, artists and writers, academics and administrators, preachers and counselors, chaplains and teachers.

Women have come here from very different geographical places, from the east, the south, the west, the midwest, the mountain states. Each of those settings has its own cultural and political and theological geography–and a varying scale of welcome for women in church leadership.

The group includes women doing ministry in the large metropolises of Chicago, greater Los Angeles, D.C. It also includes women serving in rural settings, where the only way to get to church might be by gravel road.

Some have been in the Church of the Brethren all their lives. Some are brand new to the denomination.

Are we kindred spirits? At one level, I believe so. In Ephesians 4 it is called “the calling with which you have been called.” All called to ministry, all answering God’s call in one way or another. That’s how the women in this gathering are kin, and that is the place our spirits meet.

–Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Director of News Services

Enough for All

For decades in Washington, DC, there has been an event called the National Prayer Breakfast – where clergy, government officials, celebrities, and many other people of faith come together to share in a time of fellowship and prayer for the work that they do. However, there was a sense this year that there was an important population that may not be represented at the National Prayer Breakfast, and that it was important to join in praying with them and in their voice as well.

It was out of this spirit, building off of the Occupy movement, that the Peoples Prayer Breakfast was launched – praying that we would recognize and work so that there is enough for all. Sweet Honey In the Rock’s Dr. Ysaye Barnwell sang, ““I woke up this morning with my mind set on justice…”, and it was this message that united all the people in that room – from members of the Occupy movement, to DC area clergy, to staff of denominational offices, to members of Congress, to folks struggling with hunger, homelessness, and poverty. In so many ways, this breakfast was an extension of the work we have been doing together – from prayer vigils on the lawn of the United Methodist Building, to action alerts supporting a just and moral budget process, to the work we do in our churches – supporting soup kitchens and homeless shelters, to my arrest this summer, kneeling to pray in the Capitol Rotunda.

“We thought prayer shouldn’t be used for access to power or to move forward people’s agendas,” said Brian Merritt, an organizer of the alternative breakfast who is pastor of the city’s Palisades Community Church. “Prayer connects us to something greater than ourselves, but also moves us in action for those around us. It challenges us to confront others’ needs … Prayer is something people agonize over, people cry over. But it’s not always something that makes those who have power feel comfortable.”

The goal of the Peoples Prayer Breakfast was not to offset, or disqualify, the voices of prayer coming from the National Prayer Breakfast. But to remember that when we are praying for our nation, for our priorities, for the work that we do together, that there are more voices that must be lifted up. The call was simply that we must ensure there is “enough for all.” The room was decorated with artwork and placards calling for basic dignities for all, reminding us of the things that “everybody needs” — a warm bed, a decent education, clean water, a roof over one’s head.

These are prayers that are not the exclusive domain of the Peoples Prayer Breakfast – it would be my prayer that it is also what is being lifted up at the National Prayer Breakfast. And it is amazing to think what we might do when we are all praying together.

Hourly Prayers for Peace

Brothers and sisters, my apologies for not getting these on the blog in a more timely manner. Below are the first set of hourly prayer updates on this International Day of Prayer for Peace. May the peace of Christ be with you.

8pm EST – As you close the day, pray that the peace that started in these prayers today is only the start, laying the foundation for a peaceful world.

7pm EST – Pray for our mission workers around the world, that they might carry the peace of Christ w/ them, helping build a world of peace.

6pm EST – Pray for the peace of the church-for your church, for your communion, for the body of Christ-that we might walk in the way of Christ.

5pm EST – Pray for all of those who have been impacted by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as by terrorism and the war on terrorism globally.

4pm EST – Pray for the influence of violence on our children and youth. Be an example for them, that they might know another way of living.

3pm EST – In this hour, pray for those who continue to suffer from domestic violence and the violence of sexual exploitation.

2pm EST – As millions are impacted by disaster-man made & natural-pray & act to seek sustainable living w/ God’s creation. http://t.co/BkLNxtt4

1pm EST – As millions go jobless & live in a life of systematic poverty & hunger, pray that we might transform systems of injustice around us.

12pm EST – This hour, say a prayer for #TroyDavis, all of those on death row, & this country that continues to seek vengeance through violence.

11am EST – Pray for #Obama, as he speaks at the UN & meets w/ Israeli and Palestinian leadership. And seek mid-east peace – http://t.co/CTB79IiJ

10am EST – This hour, pray for the peace of your family-whoever that is. Pray that they may find the peace they each need, and peace with one another.

9am EST – Move from the peace within, to extend it to your immediate surroundings. Pray for the peace of the person standing next to you.

8am EST – Start this #IDOPP by seeking your own peace. Begin by praying for the peace you need within. Loving your enemies begins with loving yourself.

What do we do now?

I want to start this by thanking so many of you – for your words of support, whether it be through comments on here, twitter, or facebook. This was an action I only took knowing the church was with me – from leadership in Elgin to local pastors in the Washington, DC area. And to hear from so many of you … it is when we speak with each other, through one another, and together that we have a voice that makes a difference.

It was a powerful experience – to kneel in prayer in the Rotunda of the Capitol building, and pray that the decisions made in that building would reflect the values of the faith that so many hold dear. That the Holy Spirit would fill that place, and move our decision makers to seek to make this world more in accordance with the will of God – and to stand where God stands, caring for the poor and feeding the hungry. And then to be arrested for doing that very thing – with 10 other persons of faith.

Many have asked me whether or not I think the arrests yesterday of 11 people of faith made a difference. There has certainly been a lot of press attention to the actions taken. From the Huffington Post, to the New York Times, to ABC News, and many, many more – the word certainly got out about the actions. Combine that with the attention building around the daily prayer vigils, which continued today, and will continue next week, and it would seem that our country is certainly paying attention to what the church is saying.

But this still leaves the question of whether or not this will shift the debate in Washington – one that seems to only want to ask communities that have no more to give to sacrifice to get our fiscal house in order (which does need to happen). Whether it be the hungry through cuts to SNAP, God’s Creation by stripping funding for the Clean Water Act, or those in poverty around the world by slashing food aid – these seem to be the only communities actually being asked to give.

The reality is the action I took yesterday will only have an impact if it has your backing. Your words of support to me have meant so much – but your Senators and Representatives need to hear them, too. There are so many ways you can weigh in. Send them an email, call their offices in DC, or, and this one would have the most impact, visit their local offices (they are listed on their websites). No matter where you go, the message is that we cannot bring our fiscal house in order as a nation on the backs of the poor and vulnerable around the world. We need to consider increasing revenue and cutting security and military spending, too. The poor and vulnerable have no more to give. Or, just let them know that you are holding them in prayer as they consider what God would have them do.  Check out the NCC Poverty Initiative for more resources. BUT THEY NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU. It is time for all people of faith to speak up, and to take action, and seek to live in a nation that reflects our values. What we spend our money on goes a long way toward determining what those values are.